Monday, May 5, 2008

My Golden week

Last week was my best one in Japan. It is called the golden week and almost all the offices in japan are closed. A string of national holidays span through this entire week like the children's day, constitution day etc. To make it even better, development of our project is complete and our team is relatively relaxed. Rajasree and Deepak are back home in India. Siddhartha and I had 10 days in our hands to make the most of the occassion.

My holidays started on friday, since I had worked on weekends earlier. My golden week began with a visit to Tokyo. My jummah was in Tokyo Camii where I discovered an Egyptian restaurant, Obento in Yoyogi uehara. Most of the desi's,arabs,africans and turkish people around that place have lunch in Obento after their friday prayers. That place was so much like "Zak's" in Bangalore. Same Shawarma, Khubus, Filafel, Hummus etc. After the Egyptian lunch I did some window shopping in Akihabara. I wanted to discover the japanese electronics market. There was so much choice if I wanted to buy a product meant for the japanese market. But the international products are fewer in number. However, even then you will always be stuck with many so many choices. I could not make a decission what to and what not to buy. I decided to come later with Siddhartha to make a final choice.

On saturday I relaxed at home. Did some research on the net about the places to visit during the holidays. Even then too many choices. Its not easy to make a decission when you dont have any constraints. Initially I wanted to go to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara but according to, there were some interesting choices closer to Tokyo region. Siddhartha and myself were still unsure about the decission to make. Only decission we made was to go to Akihabara on sunday for some electronics shopping.

Our sunday began pretty late, as usual. Around 11 we left to Tokyo. As my plan always in on reaching tokyo(I always reach Yoyogi uehara around zuhur time). I went for my zuhur prayer in Tokyo camii and wanted to take Siddhartha to try the Egyptian lunch. For our bad luck, the restaurant was closed on sunday. It was a bad beginning but still we decided to checkout Ginza before leaving to Akihabara. We reached Ginza around 1 30 PM. Siddhartha had high expectations of Ginza but dint find it all that impressive. Maybe, I had praised that part of Tokyo more than it deserved. We ate in an Indian vegetarian restaurant called Natraj. Its not easy to find a vegetarian restaurant anywhere in Japan. The food was good but a touch expensive(2500Y per head). After our lunch we left to Akihabara where we met my friend Arif who was himself doing some window shopping along with his friend. He helped us find Yodobashi, which is the best place to shop for electronic goods around the Akihabara station. We actually dint take much time in buying anything. I bought an ipod. Siddhartha also bought an mp3 player and some other gifts like wall hangings and T shirts. We left to Roppongi hills after our shopping, where we had a photo session as usual near the sky scrapers of Tokyo. I walked to Hiro'o for asar and mogrib prayers. After which we checked out the Roppongi hills in more detail. We dint go on top but saw the festive atmosphere created over there due to the golden week ofcourse. We returned home after that.

We continued our research on the net about the places to visit outside of the Tokyo region. We had considered a town called Nikko earlier but Arif sang praises about it when we met him in Akihabara. We decided on Nikko and tried to find out as much as possible through the internet. We decided to get there on the Tobu Nikko pass, which would make the trip more reasonable and hasslefree.

On tuesday, we left home around 7 in the morning. We took the Odakyu line till Yoyogi uehara station and from there changed lines and reached Asakusa station around 8 30. We reached there just in the nick of time to catch the train bound to Nikko. We took the pass and left on the express train around 9 15. We reached our destination in a bit more than two hours. The train ride was a very nice one. We could see the Japan we had not seen till then, full of farmers and paddy fields. On reaching Nikko, first thing we saw is a desi restaurant(Asian Garden) right in front of the station run by a Bangladeshi. We ate some prawn curry over there and they suggested us to stay in a Dormitory they have around Lake Chuzenji. After having lunch, Siddhartha and I took the bus till Nihisando. We saw the different temples and shrines over there. It was a beautful sight. The japanese architecture was for us to see there. However, what makes that place really beautiful is the greenery. We saw the real glow of nature after having seen the winter all these months. We saw the Sakura glow in Tokyo in the first two weeks of april but the glow was still to be seen in Nikko.

After the Temples and shrines we took the bus to lake Chuzenji and kept our bags and checked into the dormitory in Asian garden. It was a very cheap option(1500 Yen a night) and the dormitory was not very crowded. We took the bus to see Ryuzu falls after taking rest for about 30 minutes. Ryuzu falls was a very beautiful sight. We could see the water flow from somewhere with great force. One cant help just follow the water to see where it is coming from. We walked upstream and as we went the sight got more and more beautiful. We took pictures and walked through the woods. It was an amazing feeling where we could smell the nature and feel the winds blow. While the water kept flowing and made a very musical sound. I must say the 2 km walk upstream dint feel like hard work. It was just going with the flow. If I was to pick my best experience in this country, it would be this "walk in the woods". On reaching the top where we thought of taking a bus to return to our dormitory but the bus just left and the next bus was after one hour. We now decided to walk back downhill and hoped the bus would catch us while we are walking back. It turned out to be a 4 km walk back to our dorm. It was tiring but fun. Especially the cool wind and the natural surroundings made it feel so. We reached our dorm around 8 pm. We had our dinner which was an Indian style buffet. It was more Bengali style(sweet) and reminded me of my stay in Kolkata. We went to sleep after dinner. There we got into a very interisting conversation with a Dutch person of Iranian descent. What began as a friendly talk, turned into a political arguement. Siddhartha was smart enough to change the topic and get it all down to tourism in japan. We were too tired to continue talking and we went to sleep.

On wednesday we had plans to see more lakes and falls. Nikko is a place full of lakes, falls and hiking trails. We begn our journey with the Kagone falls very close to lake Chuzenji. It was another beautiful sight. We could see a rainbow formation very clearly. It was another postcard perfect picture. So far our trip was full of each sight more beautiful than the other. We then had a look at lake Chuzenji and thought of retuning near Nikko station after checking out some more spots on the way back. We took the bus bound to Nikko station and got down at Nishisando. Where we found directions guiding us towards Jakku falls. We had another 2 km long walk uphill to see the Jakku falls. It was a very tiring walk but at the end it was worth it. This waterfall was not a very big one. But a big advantage here was that we could get into the water. I had carried my swim wear expecting an oportunity to getting into water and this was it. Siddhartha was the first one to have courage to enter the water. Though I can swim long and Siddhartha is not to comfortable swiming long, I was scared to get into the falls. Both of us got into the water one by one. It was a very special experience. Especially the temperature of te water was so low but the dip in the cold water made us feel so relaxed that we forgot that we had walked uphill to get here. We walked back down and took the next bus towards the Tobu Nikko station.

On the way we got down near a very famous bridge just to have a look. We decided to walk to Tobu Nikko station from there and on the way we even found an internet/information centre, where we got to know more about this very interesting place. We then walked back to the station. We had our lunch in Asian garden. After we had our lunch, to my surprise I couldnot find my pass. That was most important to get across Nikko town. I searched for the pass going back to the information centre and other spots but couldnot find it. It dint feel nice but had to move on. We now decided to go to Kirifuri falls which was not that special but I realised on that trip that the Japanese system trusts their guests I mean though I had lost my pass that would take me aroubd Nikko and back to Asakusa. They dint make me pay even a yen extra.

After returning from Kirifuri falls we found Daiyagawa youth hostel to spend that night. The facilities here were nothing special compared to Asian garden in Chuzenji but it cost us 2700 Y(double of the cost in Asian Garden). Anyway it was an interesting stay. We met some Japanese and Canadian tourists. One of the Canadians was a good guitarist and singer. That night was a concert like experience.

We left the next morning to Tobu world. Tobu world has replica's of most important places in the world. Each replica is of 1/25th size of the original and identical to the original place. We saw the best places in Europe, Asia, Egypt and America. Took a lot of photo's. The best one being near our very own Taj mahal.

After viiting Tobu wonderworld we took the train back to Asakusa and from there back to Hon-Atsugi. It was a hassle free journey. Where we saw many places but never faced any hassle either for travel or stay. We were back home on thursday evening. That day we decided to have much needed rest. Through our trip, our days began in the early morning around 8 and ended around midnight. We never even went to office at sharp 9 unless when it was absolutely necessary.

My friday went pretty quite. Went to Ebina for jummah and rest of the day washed clothes and finished all my pending work. We had plans to go out again on sunday but it dint quite work out. My saturday and sunday mostly passed in Ebina masjid where there were some interesting programs. I got to meet many people. One most interesting person was brother Loui from Spain.
I returned home only to watch some stuff on youtube. I followed a bit of IPL but its not quite possible to do it with the enthusiasm we do it at home.

On monday I again set out to Tokyo, alone this time. I wanted to have a nice time before I got back to work. As usual after zuhur prayers in Yoyogi camii I had a very good Egyptian lunch in Obento. Then I left to Akihabara to buy a digital camera. I bought a new Olympus micro but not before having checked each shop in Akihabara for a good international model. Atlast, I found a good deal in Yodobashi where I exchanged the points earned on earlier purchase. It turned out to be a very good deal. I managed a 30% discount. Im yet to use my new camera though. On my way back as usual evening and Isha prayers in Tokyo camii yoyogi uehara and had a very good Egyptian dinner in Obento before taking Odakyu line to return home.

Overall a very long and interesting Golden week and a blog that is more like a novel. I found it really tough to recall all events while writing it. I know most of those who read might not have the patience to read it to the end. Anyway, I hope to have more of these golden weeks in many more interesting locations in time to come. Lets say ameen to that.

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